Category Archives: family
I was 13 or 14 and just barely out of the house. I was visiting my grandparents on my Dad’s side. I was taking my niece, who was my brothers’ baby, to meet them for the first time.
I was on the floor in the front room with her while my Dad and his wife sat looking on in the company of my Grandma and Grandpa.
That floor was lovely; I grew up on it sometimes. And those laps, the laps of my Grandma and Grandpa, I grew up on them too. Read the rest of this entry
I am 28 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal. Fortunately, I don’t have trouble sleeping without him, like if I am sleeping elsewhere or if there is an actual four year old in the house that needs him. I don’t know if he is restless when I am away, we have never talked about it.
Read the rest of this entry
I was 8 years old. I came home and told my older brother, my hero, my mentor, my beacon of freedom and wisdom that I was in love. I had fallen in love with a cute chubby kid in a sailors’ hat.
My brother was busy with many important things so I made my announcement louder. This was after all a very important thing. “ Ah-hem!” I was in love with a cute chubby kid in a sailors hat, my announcement rung the pictures on the living room wall. Read the rest of this entry
Whidbey Island until the End
Somewhere in there Otay had reached sexual maturity and night time cages became more necessary when we were outside or in dilapidated houses that were less like inside than a tarp. His testicles, which were as big as his torso called him to wander in a way he was less likely to return from.
We moved to Whidbey Island in the spring. Otay met a lot of goats and passed the time tearing keys off laptops that were left open and unattended. Sometimes he could get one off while a person was just a few steps away from their computer.
We hopped around to Olympia a little, and sometimes stayed over in Port Townsend, me in a bed in the back of a box truck and him leaving pee trails on the front seats.
These were the days when he took up a rather curious hobby of chasing Skrap (or any other dog I trusted not to eat him) and trying to nibble at their penises. He was dedicated and would not give up the chase until such time as I took pity on my patient dog and picked up Otay and tucked him in my shirt. Tucking Otay in my shirt was like putting a towel over a birdcage and he would go right to sleep.
Otay lived nights in a condo built from an old rabbit hutch so that Skrap could rest a few hours in the evening unmolested.
When we moved back to Olympia it was summer. We bounced around for a hot minute and then moved into a little house made of windows in a luscious backyard. It was a place I had seen in my dreams and not surprising to me that it showed up physically.
Otay took no time finding an escape under a gardening drawer; at least I think that was where the hole was. Truth be told it was months of me plugging up holes I though were ‘the one’. Eventually he could only be off me when I was right there and even then sometimes he would disappear and materialize outside in the tall grass.
Once he escaped for less than five minutes but I found him covered in leaves as though he had fashioned himself clothes chewing on the bark of a tree he was clinging to. It was as though he had been on his own, surviving in the wild for months. This was Otays only foray into re-wilding.
In October that year I put together an art instillation at a hall just outside of town. My dear friend watched Otay for a few days so I could work around the clock without him leaping off of ladders or chasing raccoons to try to taste their junk.
That was our first time apart. I would not have thought it was possible but when I would walk into a room after being separated from him for any length of time he would scamper to me as fast as his little legs would go, or he would sneeze to me where he was until I picked him up.
When we cleaned up the show we had a load for the dump. I was heaving bags of non-burnables and smashed toilets down about twenty feet into the otherwise empty bin. I was just about to throw down a very heavy object when I spotted none other than Otay at the bottom of the bin sniffing broken glass, wading in dumpster soup.
I nearly had a coronary incident. I put down the heavy object and ran to the lady in the booth where the dump handled money. Like a cartoon, 8 very buff men showed up quickly like they just hid all day, polishing their muscles, waiting for someone to rescue. They talked about trajectories and strategies and action plans. I offered that someone could put the ladder they had brought down into the bin. Then that person could climb down, pick up Otay and climb back out.
I was told to keep quiet and let the professionals do their job. Twenty minutes later one of the men put his ladder down into the bin. He then climbed down, picked up Otay and then climbed back out. The team left Hi-5’ing each other and talking about God’s grace in the face of such adversity.
It was a good summer for Otay. We did not know it would be his last. He rode with me on bicycles, went to the beach and the river, and ate everything his mouth touched. He spent more and more time on the bodies of other friends. My roommate learned the hard way about his computer key habit, three times.
We went to New Mexico in the winter for our first trip to the little round trailer I have since lived in twice a year. The folks in La Madera had never heard of a pet rat, and wanted to hurl when they saw how he drank. So Otay stayed in the trailer and ate avocados and drank water with Osha in it to fix up what seemed like a urinary tract infection. This was the only time Otay was ever sick. When he was healthy we went back north to our glass nest.
These final months he had a more active social life than myself. We would go to a party and people I had never met would stick their hands in my shirt to flirt with him and coo about some recent adventure they had shared. These people would regard me about as much as the chair a friend is sitting in gets regarded.
Otay was a man about town. He had many more girlfriends than me.
One day we went to Elma to see the horse that had recently become the newest member of our family. Otay stayed in the van because when he rode on me during manual labor, my neck would look like a scratching post afterwards.
He had never escaped from a car. After work we got back in the van and drove the 40 miles home at 65 miles per hour. I did not see Otay but there was any number of places I figured he was hiding.
When we got home there was still no sign of him. We searched and searched. I called his name 1000 times. We called Elma so they could check their own driveway.
Eventually we all sat crying on the porch, wondering if he had escaped or if he had gotten into the engine somehow and fell off on the highway. I had a strong feeling that he was alive but in danger. We went back to the van. My friend checked the back again. I sat in the drivers seat and closed my eyes. I called his name and spoke our secret clicking language and then I listened, hard.
Then suddenly, a sneeze!!!!! Halleluiah! From inside the dashboard. Behind the steering wheel, so many sneezes then. 16 screws, a lot of prayers and a dashboard removal later he was free. As near as we could figure, Otay had crawled through the gas pedal hole up to a tiny platform in the dashboard where he had clung on for dear life, surviving high speeds and bone rattling pop music.
In spring a trip to California brought Otays first stay in a five star hotel. On our way back north we were stopped at a friends place and I put a watermelon rind in his cage. In the morning he was scratching like wild at his bars. I looked and it was like a horror movie, everything in the cage was covered in ants so thick it was all you could see. There were two lines marching out of the wall right into the cage with no sign of stopping. Otay was rescued in the nick of time.
In retrospect this was the closest he ever came to being eaten.
In Portland we met a rat named Augustine Octavius who was being called Cointel-pro, living a lonely life in a basement. He was not older than Otay but he was bigger and paralyzed from the waste down. He was supposedly a biter.
We learned that Oggy (as we called him) was a sweet flower waiting to blossom with love and avocados. We adopted him as a pet for Otay who had been lonely in his cage when I found steady work.
They were quick cuddle buddies. Oggy was the only rat Otay had ever liked. Oggy thrived in Olympia. Otay on the other hand began to wither. It was too much time in his cage and not enough on my body. Even with Oggy as a pet, I believe his heart was broken.
Two weeks later he got sick. It came on fast, a matter of a day or two. By the time I noticed he was not well he was hardly moving and not eating or drinking by himself.
For two days we sat watching him. I fed him nettle tea in an eyedropper. I had seen nettle tea bring goats back from the gates of death. I also fed him pedialyte and at one point he ate applesauce and we thought he would recover.
It was not so. He passed away, cuddled between our greatest friend and me. It was the early morning of June the 8th. We wrapped him in lace like the sweetheart of Mel Gibson in Brave Heart. We had a public viewing for the entire day and then he was buried by a parade of children who loved him, in a bed of flowers and stories and a boat made of flute melodies created for his journey.
In a world where complacency can take us over so quickly Otay was a living and constant reminder of lifes’ magic. Though he may be sitting on a golden throne eating dog dick in rat heaven, we are hear missing him and forever listening for his sneeze.
A day later we headed north. Grandpa left us in San Francisco and Otay, Skrap and myself moved on alone (together).
We went through Petaluma, hot tubs at parents’ houses, so much wine with so many Dads, washes, olde theatres and punk shows.
We got dropped off one afternoon at a very strange spot that was not in walking distance of food or water. It was the Y where one kind of large road became two much smaller roads. The sun set and we walked into a spooky park called ‘Organ Donors Grove’.
Skrap and I slept hard. Otay stayed by my head and kept watch. I was worried about him in my dreams but in the morning he was curled at my feet. I drank a warm beer in my backpack, the last one left and we went back out to the road.
By afternoon we had not been picked up. Otay was the only one of the three of us that had food, funny because he did not mind missing meals nearly as much as Skrap and myself.
Mixed in with Otays’ food were raw almonds in their shells. Rats have ever growing teeth and if they don’t have that sort of thing to grind on then their teeth can actually grow up into their little skulls. I picked all the almonds out. I stomped them open on the road and picked out the smushed guts. I ate some and gave some to Skrap.
Some dogs love vegetables, some love nuts and tofu and all kinds of strange things. My dog is not like that. He likes meat and butter and things that taste like meat and butter but since this day he has also loved almonds.
By the time we got picked up in a ride going clear to Oregon we had eaten all of Otays nuts.
We got another ride and made it to Olympia that night. We got to stop with each ride for soft serve. It was a good day.
Skrap is very polite when sharing ice cream. He takes small licks and never bites. Otay, on the other hand, would burrow in with his whole head leaving claw marks and head sized holes all up in your cone. I never minded because I always got the largest of the largest cone available. Next to that, his head was pretty small.
Once we got back to Olympia it took quite a while to reach Montana again. The pass snowed over, I lost three or four days here and there in a bottle and I kept ending up in Portland with my so many loves there.
My brother, from a different and so similar mother, in Portland had a house that loved Otay. There was always a bedroll for us in the basement workshop with two bowls of water beside it, one big for skrap and one teensy for Otay.
Otay had run of that workshop. He loved to chew and play in the pallets that lined the floor so that all the desks, tables, and shelves were raised up when it flooded each winter.
When I went outside Otay would make the herculean climb up the stairs to find me. I always heard him coming because on each step he would stop to sneeze and clean his face.
He was always a big sneezer, when he had play dates with other rat buddies I had to calm the minds of concerned people because sickness spreads so fast among them. Sneezing was not a symptom for Otay, but rather a lifestyle.
When we did finally make it east to the moldy teepee it had been a good while since Otay or I had taken any kind of solid poop. I quit the sauce when I got back to Montana, which is an entirely huge and different story but I will never forget what a milestone it was when me and my rat received the blessing of solid bowel movements…
It is a story best told by Grandpa, but I will do my best to give the gist of it. Grandpa had been pretty sick ever since we had left the bay. Various symptoms digestive and otherwise had afflicted him. These symptoms were above and beyond what was common for our kind of diet and alcohol consumption. They included tremors, fevers, flashes and all kinds of not funs but none of them in any order or pattern that was familiar to me.
One night, in the bus, as Grandpa and Otay hung out alone, the sickness came worse than ever. Grandpa seriously thought he might die, like he had been poisoned or possessed or something. He was laying there, to sick to get help when Otay crawled onto his chest. Otay proceeded to do an elaborate dance that Grandpa later described but that I believe is best left unpublished. The dance took place down the length of Grandpas body and he said he could feel the sickness moving around, following Otay.
When Otay reached his feet he shook the sickness right out of them. A very tired Otay then came to Grandpas lips and drank drank drank.
That mystery illness never came back after that night.
The beginning of our life in Monatana was me passed out on a tiny karaoke stage at the neighborhood bar. Otay was on his hind legs, teethe barred, balanced on my shoulder defending himself from a barkeep who was swatting him with a broom.
She had never heard of a pet rat.
Folks would come try to get me up and back on a barstool and he would defend me too.
That night was the horribly predictable result of me rewarding myself for being sober 12 hours. The next weeks in Montana Otay slept tucked tight in my sportsbra, safe as I marathon jumped on and off the wagon.
We lived in a teepee buried by 12 foot snowdrifts.
He ran around at night over our moldy futon making trouble in the dry goods box on the desk, chewing candles and leaving pee trails on the ever-growing piles of pictures and poems drawn o the inside of grocery store bags.
A neighbor dog broke into the teepee through a loose seem and chased ota out of where the back corner would have been if a tee pee had corners. It was then that we acquired a big chicken wire cage that had brought chicks to the land the spring before. It had a cute wooden roof and a straw floor and fit perfectly between the futon and the barrel stove. This way he stayed toasty without catching fire.
The cage irritated him a little but kept him from being eaten. My strong preference was that Otay never be eaten.
The sides of the cage were very nice for climbing. A couple of times Otay managed to suspend himself long enough to chew through the corners of the roof and I had to repair them with various methods and masses of electrical tape. Why did we seem to have so much electrical tape?
The dogs would wine at the cage but they knew not to get to close or they would be out in the snow. It was hard for them to understand, having been raised with rewards when they kept Otays’ wild distant cousins out of the barn and the big cabin where the family who belonged to this land lived.
We took a short walk to Oakland California at some point to see my olde drinking buddy from Cottage Grove. He is one of my favorite people I have ever made a series of poor decisions with. Otay nibbled our toes in the loft built above the kitchen built above the bike shop.
When we stumbled back to the car in San Francisco he narrowly avoided the nervous kitty. I was no help to him, curled up and shaking. Then it was back home through stormy mountain passes in a car with no heat whose windows had to stay down to keep the windshield from fogging over.
In December we traveled over to Seattle for Otays first Christmas. He lived on cookies and cheese wedge shaped chew toys and took extra long naps.
We decided to go down to Olympia. Then we decided we may as well borrow little white truck and drive to Arizona since we were already there. Otay rode on the seat behind my head or between the laps of myself and the friend who came along. We picked up 3 of our closest friends in S.F. and drove south a few miles at which time the trucks engine exploded because I had forgotten that trucks need oil.
We left it by the side of the road. We broke into two teams of two and hit the highway one after the other. Our fifth went back to the city. He was in love up there anyways and found it very fortunate that he had a good reason not to go south with us. For all I know he had put sugar in the gas tank.
It was the middle of the night and Skrap, Otay, Grandpa (our buddy) and myself were the second team on the on-ramp. A bottom hitting football star cokehead in a big big big shiny shiny shiny black car picked us up.
We slept that night in an R.V. parked in his side yard. That R.V. was larger and more luxurious than most homes either of us had ever been in. Otay got to tunnel in and out of fresh sheets while we watched belly dancing on public access on a large TV mounted between the driver and passenger seats.
Like I said, by that time we did not travel with a cage. By night we would be sleeping in the bushes and I would periodically wake up and hear him nibbling around, but come morning he would be curled in the bottom of my sleeping bag or scratching at my lips. I bet Skraps smell and over-all awesomeness lent itself to Otay never becoming a snack in those days.
It was a whirlwind down thru L.A. and out into the desert. We stopped only to charm people in Wal Mart parking lots, take our naps and drink beers when we tired of pouring them into to-go cups.
Then there was McDonalds. Oh McDonalds. Grandpa and myself had inadvertently found us on a spiritual journey where everything in our lives was being questioned. This included such no brainers as- McDonalds is not actually food. So we ate it. It was our new attitude, breaking away from all preconceived notions. Freedom tasted not like a baby and not like bathwater, we had thrown both out! Freedom tasted like double “cheese burgers”. We ate it until out poop turned black and we dreamt about vegetables. Then we ate it again, big macs apple pies chicken nuggets….it was not a proud time.
Between decisions like that and the booze, Otay, who basically lived in my mouth and refused most other water, suffered similar digestive struggles as myself. Diarrhea became very common for both of us. Rat diarrhea on me in 105-degree weather, racing toward Bisbee where we hardly had enough water to keep us conscious let alone bathe… that was love.
Grace had a dear friend scoop us up. She was visiting family in southern California and she drove us through the miles of one-exit-at-a-time that some people get trapped in for years.
Tucson was wild. We met back up with the friends who had been in the white truck. We got drunk in a tunnel in the morning. When I woke up t was afternoon, Skrap and Otay were curled up on the dirt with me. We walked back to our friend’s house and got drunk again. I had sex with a nice girl on the front porch then went inside and had sex with another nice girl who didn’t normally do that sort of thing. Certainly not on the kitchen counter, then in the middle of the dance floor, then in a sleeping bag 3 feet from her ex boyfriend. Otay was a real trooper. I have no idea where he was but in the morning he was beside me.
Grandpa and I woke up early and got while the getting was good. A hippy headed to Bisbee for the same New Years Hoorah we had our sights set on picked us up. We listened to a cassette tape of chicken stompers from a tribe that lived half on this side of the border and half on the other.
In Bisbee Prince Otay rode in and out of all kinds of music and pubs and parades. We stayed out in the desert. Otay stayed in a bus with Grandpa so that the dog of the guy I was boning would not eat him.
It was here that Otay performed his first miracle…
48 hours later
As I balanced on top of a fence thin trail that dropped drastically several hundred feet down to a waterfall that then dropped another couple of hundred feet it dawned on me that this might be why the trail was lovingly named, ‘Dread and Terror’. Skrap had run ahead to where the road widened. Otay was perched on my shoulder, swaying along like a king on a pillow suspended between elephants.
The cage I was carrying was either helping me hold my balance or responsible for throwing it off. I guess that doesn’t matter if the decision has already been made to carry it.
There were horse prints and bicycle tracks even where the trail dropped off completely and we had to leap to pick it up again. My hat is off to you if you have ever left tracks like that on trails that dreadful or terrifying.
Otay slept the days away, waking to shift around my torso as it suited him. By night he scurried around that silly cage filled with leaves, fir bows, and a handful of morsels from the big zip lock bag I had filled before we left the ranch. We didn’t know it but Otay would never again see that place.
It was only a few weeks of me lugging that foolish cage around. Hiking, hitching, busking, begging always carrying a cage that only got used for a few hours every night. I just didn’t know Otay well enough to trust him to stay close while I was sleeping.
Through Eugene, Portland and Olympia we traveled and then I abandoned the cage. He stayed on me along highways, in grocery stores, at punk shows. In Olympia we stayed in rooms with my extended family of the heart. We would shut the door and Otay would rage.
Little water bottles were duct taped to the bottoms of walls for him and food dishes were kept at the end of sunken mattresses on the floor. Cat pee covered towels were shoved under doors to keep him in and other rats (not the kind that lived on a human) out.
From the time that Otay crawled up out of my collar, the first night I had him, his favorite place to be besides asleep, was my mouth. He loved to drink from it no matter what other sources of water were available to him. He loved my spittle whether it was flavored like cheap wine or cheaper smokes. We developed a lion tamer show where I was the lion and Otay the tamer. The finale was him sticking his whole head, which was growing like a weed, in my mouth.
For a while at first I thought Otay might be sickly because he slept all day. I laughed hard when I learned that rats are nocturnal, that made an awful lot of sense being as how he was very energetic and thirsty in the night.
Not a traditional uncle, this man was the roommate of a person I first fell in love with when I was in my early teens. He insisted I call him Uncle and he would give me incredible (for better or worse) advice when he found the sweet spot between grumpy and passed out.
I had been up all morning crying while my metal head love snored upstairs. I wanted love and the guitar player wanted sex and though the years would prove that these two things are not mutually exclusive, they sure seemed to be that morning. Uncle Cranston came home smelling awful, grabbed a beer and sat on the sunken couch across from mine.
I would learn later that he had woken up early that morning to go to a job interview at the mall. He was still drunk from the night before. He felt a troubling rumble as he was getting off the bus in front of the mall and as he took the last step onto the sidewalk he shat himself.
He cleaned up as best he could in the public bathrooms and went to the interview, late and still covered in shit. When I heard him recount the story later he thought he had not gotten the job because he was overqualified.
He sipped his beer and looked at my puffy wet red face. “Oh little Neotni, tell Uncle Cranston what’s the matter.”
I poured out my sob story, how I was in love with everybody but no one was in love with me and how I never had friends in the daytime only lovers at night and how the man had me down because I was a minor and how nothing would ever be okay never ever. Really I was crying because I felt so alone. I felt like everyone was judging me for not being a good grown up but no one would bother to teach me how to do that. It was a set up and my poor heart failed a lot and broke a lotter.
He stopped me at some point, “Hold on now, hold on there. Let Uncle Cranston tell you something about problems. Do you know where problems are kept Neotni?”
I didn’t know what he meant.
“I will tell you where problems are kept! They are kept in brain cells. Do you know what alcohol kills Neotni? Brain cells. The reason I am so happy is because I am proactive! If I have a problem, I drink diligently until I kill the brain cells that contain the problem. And that is just the kind of go-getter action you are going to need to take if you want to feel better.”
He passed me a beer at ten a.m. that Monday morning and I set about applying myself.
Bailey would be 10 this year. She would have had one green eye and one blue eye if her eyes would have developed. I know because I saw them and sometimes I still see them.
I did not know her dads legal first name until we were in the prep room together at the clinic and the nurse asked. It was the only time I laughed that day. He did not look like his name. But she would have looked just like a Bailey.
One week earlier we had been walking out of a new seasons in North East Portland. There was a sandwich board outside of a clinic that shared the complex. It said that there were free pregnancy tests happening right there. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that I might be pregnant. He was surprised when I told him I was going to go up and get one for the hell of it. I told him I would meet him back at the clown mansion where we were building bicycles for our great escape.
He went away and I took a long walk up to the second floor waiting room. When they handed me the paper to fill out there was a box for whether I wanted to be pregnant or not. That way, if I was, they could tell me in a somber or congratulatory way depending on my expectation.
They told me I was pregnant in a somber way. I scheduled the abortion for one week out. I didn’t even pause to consider. I asked how much it cost. I asked if they knew how I could get funding because three hundred dollars may as well have been one million.
The next week I rode my new bicycle in and out of DSHS offices all over Portland begging the state of Oregon to give me a emergency health care coverage. If I had wanted to get a physical or my teeth fixed I would have been shit out of luck, but the state was more than willing to terminate the pregnancy of a 17 year old houseless girl. Its just good business.
He wanted to come to those appointments but I would not let him. He was technically committing statutory rape and I was scared to have him anywhere near the shaming workers I encountered. The last thing I needed was for him to be arrested on charges that were not dependent on an accusation.
In between appointments I sat shocked, drinking beers and being melancholy while confused clowns offered condolences for a situation that I hadn’t told anyone about. I guess he was talking while I was away.
The beers made me feel sick. The offices made me feel sick. We had a lot of unprotected sex that week because what was there to lose? I needed him to still want me when this was all over.
The morning of the appointment we walked together to the same building I had taken the test in. I picked so much lavender on the way. I put piece after piece in my hair until nothing but flowers was visible.
When I arrived I found out that my temporary coverage from the state had not come through. The nurse was worried as she explained that they could only give abortions until 11 am because of funding or legalities or some such thing. My appointment was at 10:30, the money would not be there by then.
I begged her to help me find another way. I watched my friends pull up in the funny Cadillac we were all given by a sketchball who swore it was his but didn’t know the person on the title. There was no key to that car, you had to start it under the hood. Once we were pulled over on the freeway and we spent an hour convincing the cop it was our car only to have to get out and start it that way. At that point he was over it and just let us drive away.
I saw them in the parking lot. My best friend was in the drivers seat. She was waiting to take me home, out of the city, back to the woods. I wanted to get in that car.
The people at the clinic called all around and got me a spot at a downtown place for three hours from then. She called the state of Oregon and Oregon promised the papers would be in order by then.
I hardly ever showered but I suddenly felt self-conscious. So we went to a different friends house and I cleaned my body, then I put back on my dirty clothes.
The place downtown was much worse. It was on the eighth floor of a skyscraper. I was given five minutes of free counseling to make sure if I killed myself later no one would be liable. Then I found out his first name. I understood why he had changed it. Then I was in the room.
The clinic had a name with ‘womens’ in it and everyone I met who worked there was a woman until the doctor who administered the abortions came in. Of all the places to have your only male employee…why there? He was nice enough, but still.
There was a nurse in the room in charge of the laughing gas. I told her I didn’t want it but after he started the pump she tried to wrestle it onto my face. I had to hold the lower half of my body completely still while I fought to keep the mask off with my top half.
I was successful. I felt everything. They put me in a bed in a shared recovery room. The bed was by a big window overlooking downtown. “We put you by the window,” the nurse said, “because you seem like the outdoors type.” I don’t think I thanked her.
The room was filled with the sobs of one particular woman who was telling her mother how scared she was that her husband would find out. I was told to lie there for an hour but 5 minutes later he told me that the my best friend was in the waiting room and the Cadillac was downstairs. I told him to go to the car with her. I went to the bathroom, pulled out the gauze and left down the back stairs.
I slept in our beautiful little hobbit hole a few hours later. It still smelled like skunk from an incident a few weeks earlier, the smell was familiar and comforting. He was gentle when he held me that night. It was nice. That was not so common those days.
I was awake first.
I was peeing.
I didn’t feel that different and wondered if that meant they had not got it all.
I heard a noise and saw the big white trucks and the bulldozer. Oh no. The forest service was raiding. I had heard that this happened but I had never seen it and now I was the one who saw it coming first. I woke him up and made a mad dash to every ones camp.
We started stashing gear and running all around. There was a lot to do. We had gotten pretty complacent in the quiet of the previous year. This had not happened in a long time. We heard the crashing of every blockade coming down all along the road. They were getting closer and closer. He tried to get me to stop running. There was a hemorrhaging risk with that much movement so soon.
I would go and hide and sit but I couldn’t stay still. My friends needed me and whenever I slowed down I started to think and when I thought I saw one blue eye and one green eye and I wished I lived in a world where I could have been a supported young mother and and and…. I could not sit still. My brain that morning was more dangerous than the potential of a hemorrhage.
I didn’t hemorrhage and eventually the nightmare day was over. It was dark. No one was in jail. Nothing of consequence had been taken except our peace of mind.
One week after that we got on our bicycles and headed west to the coast. Then we headed south. We were beginning a bike trip that would last three months. I didn’t menstruate after the abortion for a very long time but I remember when I did. It was Mendocino and it was so painful.
I had a cramp tincture sitting on a window ledge next to me but when I went to grab it, it fell and shattered. We got free sandwiches and rode our bikes to an abandoned house that had been overrun will feral lemurs who used to be hippy pets but now lived and bred and flourished in their palace.
Those sandwiches were really good. There was cranberry sauce on mine. A lemur stole the second half of it while I slept in the driftwood gazebo that was on the cliff edge over the ocean. It was raining hard and the roof had a huge hole in the center. It was an intentional hole. Strange way to build a gazebo in such a rainy place. We laughed at how we may as well have been sleeping out, for as wet as we were getting, but the donut roof offered a nice illusion of shelter.
I was in pain. His comforting embraces had ended again and he told me to stop complaining. Didn’t I know that his back hurt? I wasn’t the only one who had pain you know.
Everyone I tried to talk to wanted to make an embryo either a disease with no spirit or a fully developed human. Everyone had an agenda. But Bailey was real and I knew her and I missed her and I wanted her and I couldn’t keep her. All of the things are true. I needed a lot of support that was not available. I needed someone to say that I was allowed to make a decision and to have that decision be the right one and to still have it break my heart.
My heart was broken. It still is a little bit.
When I was 13 my world was changing. I was touched by a divine insight. I knew rather suddenly that the world of my parents and teachers was make believe, that all of my dreams would come true but not if I stayed, barely surviving the daily brutality of lonesome hallways and violent rooms.
Somehow, though I had never seen it done, I knew I could just go. I knew I could just stop everything. I knew I couldn’t say no but I could run from what I would have said no to.
After my first leap of faith, out of clean sheets and into dirty streets, I was handed out of a police station into my Dads car and out of my Dads car onto my sisters’ couch.
The year before, when I had still lived with my mom, my toe had ached every night. It was the big toe on my left foot. Every night it would ache so badly it woke me up.
In the daytime it never hurt.
I knew something magical had to be occurring.
It was the year in the South Puget Sound when it rained for 93 days straight. A constant drip, sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a downpour, but it never quit completely in those months.
I finally figured that my toe was weather predicting. Every night it hurt and every day it was still raining.
When the spring came and the rain stopped, I made my break for it. I was on a lot of adrenaline, a couple of drugs, and a lot of Wow! What was that? Wow! Where am I? Wow! Who is that? I don’t think I noticed my toe hurting, which fit my theory.
No rain? Well than, no aching weather predicting toe.
It was on my sisters’ couch some months later that the pain came back. But it was summer and there was no rain, I did not understand. The pain persisted, now into the days and my toe started to change. It grew and turned purple and green and excreted the foulest smelling liquid any part of my body ever has. It made the couch I lived on reek the same way. One drop of the stuff and you would have to replace the carpet or just set fire to the car.
My brother came over one day as I was being told I would have to go to the doctor. I was still convinced this was a spiritual problem. He sat me down with a cigarette on the front porch and said, “Look kid. This toe of yours is a lot like the punk rock life style. It is smelly. It is pustulent. And sooner or later it is going to need a lot of therapy.”
As it turned out the bone in my toe had got fed up like the rest of me. We were both tired of living in the constraint we were given. I had run off. My toe bone, however, had started to grow. It was growing and growing at an incredible rate, pushing up my toenail and stretching everything around it. It would not have stopped until it made it out of my foot.
Doctors removed a full half-inch of new bone. I was a minor so they didn’t have to listen to me when I told them I wanted to keep it. It is in a jar somewhere getting taken to all kinds of conferences for doctors who specialize in osteochlondromas because no one had ever seen one grow like that, or that fast, or that big. If, in your many travels, you come across my toebone in a jar, please grab it for me.
Still kinda seems like a spiritual problem.
When I met her I was two years old. She let me know immediately that I had been a mistake. I was made wrong and that the way for her to love me and to protect the world would be for her to train me to be good, in spite of my wicked nature. It was going to be a hard job because even at two years old I was ripe with manipulation and greed and disrespect. She was a hero and certainly God brought us together so that she could help divert the pain that I was already bringing to the world by existing.
It was not easy for her, long hours, wooden spoons, burning water and diligence. She kept a constant watch. Even when I was in the relative safety of my mothers house during the rest of the week I could feel her with me. I could feel her watching, I could cry thinking she might find out that I wore baggy shirts she didn’t like and still rocked back and forth when I was expected to sit still. I listened to rock and roll, I masturbated.
I knew she was going to kill me. I knew it wouldn’t work. She could not get me to stop making mistakes because I WAS the mistake. Eventually she would give up, I wondered if they would find my body and if she would get in trouble or win a Peace prize.
I tried so hard. I memorized every rule she ever made and I followed them to the letter. But the rules would change and I would be in trouble again. A lot of times I was in trouble because other people loved me. Clearly I had manipulated them because they were otherwise reasonable people and I was unlovable.
Every tiny thing I did that was not to her liking was devastating. My stomach would sink when she looked at me, fire in her eyes. When she would flick me in the forehead for being the stupidest person she knew I would feel knives in every inch of my skin.
Where I was raised there was no such thing as an accident.
Where I was raised there was no forgiveness.
Whether I did not finish dinner quickly enough, or cried when shampoo got in my eyes or came inside too early because I was cold or shut the car door the wrong way… I was a criminal. It was all evidence of a larger more dangerous disease: Me.
If the stove broke we moved. If the neighbors were loud we moved. If the walls were flat we moved. If the sun came up again we moved. If her boss said she needed to work longer hours we moved. If the furniture company found us we moved. If she met a man we moved. If she left a man we moved.
If her sister snapped at me for getting finger prints on the microwave door we didn’t speak to her for five years. If her brother got bailed out by her mom again we didn’t see them for five years. If one sister owed another sister money or if one sister was caught sleeping with another woman or if one sister said the wrong thing at the wrong moment we didn’t speak to them anymore. They didn’t exist except as a cold story of how we had been done wrong.
Where I was raised, if you were uncomfortable, you ran and when you got a safe distance away, you only looked back to decide whose fault it was.
My No House
I didn’t run because of anything, I just kept a steady pace. I was the blur you saw sweeping through your living room, I was a hand in your back pocket helping myself on an Austin sidewalk. I was the beer you thought you had left in the fridge but couldn’t find when you got home. I was a warm place you lay down with in every cheap motel on I-80. I was a shadow, a deep feeling, longing, praying, wondering if anything would ever be different, shadow. I was the shine on the back of a rainbow fish that is already disappearing the split second you thought you had seen it.
I could not subject myself to people and I could not be subjected to them. Mistakes were inevitable and fatal to all the good feelings I wanted. Every relationship beginning, friend, lover, sibling, every one began with a timer being started. I was always wondering, who would fall down first? Who would we blame later when we were both alone again? Everyone would always be alone again.
Again and forever and always.
Where I raised myself you never held on and you never let go.
My New Olde House
I am tired.
I am tired of being loneliness. I just want it to be a passing feeling like the rest.
I am tired of the world I was given, where no one loves each other past and for their frailties.
I am tired of holding on so hard to what I think might make people love me.
A seed will not sprout in a freezer.
The soil is damp and warm under the surface.
All that running made a good strong heart. The beat is the sound of all those years of living when it didn’t make sense that I was.
A heart made of running….now meant for what takes more strength.
Strong enough to forgive and to see and to let go and to hold on.
The world is a lonely place when people are not allowed to make mistakes, and I am not alone anymore.
When he came to visit me in Olympia I was locked in a garage in my sisters backyard. I had been painting picture after picture of the same girl in a rose garden for three weeks. The song “Mt. St Helens” by Mirah had been rewound and played so many times that the tape had warped- but still I played it, warping my own voice as I sang to it.
He spent two days sitting on my cot drinking 40’s with me before he was so bored he dragged me out. Into the kitchen where I stole my sisters cheese and watched her scream at her roommate about it. She never suspected me because I was an outspoken vegan. I wrote zines about how meat eaters should burn and freegans had their own special place in hell.
Truth be told, the girl in the rose garden would not kiss anyone who was not vegan. So I was. Except now she was gone and I was here. I kept it up, the persona, in case she came back . I also ate as much cheese as my sister bought in case she came back.
I told Switch, who prided himself at being an authority in the matter of anarchism, that he was a pawn of the oppressor for eating meat and cheese. That he aught to be ashamed to kiss his lover with that mouth!
When he left I found my freezer full of frozen blueberries. He knew that blueberries were the only food I was ever turned on by. For the first two weeks he was gone I just ate blueberries and humped lampposts.
When he came back around two months later he was proud to tell me that due to my influence he was now a vegan of the most hard-core variety. Unfortunately or fortunately I had finally given up living on vegan corn dogs and soft pretzels (though to this day I find both still quite delicious). She was never coming back and if she did … she was never coming back.
For four days he followed me everywhere I went, getting especially close when I was busy in the soot stained kitchen (do not try to make popcorn with grape seed oil).He berated me, he insulted me, he did his best to shame me but I had so many better things to be ashamed of. How could I do this? How could I be an omnivore? I had sold out as far as he was concerned. Funny I never received my check.
It was the fifth day when I was driving my gigantic van through Lacey several miles from where I lived. I had probably just been in a parking related accident and was fleeing the scene. That is normally what I did in my van. I passed a 7-11 and saw Switch sitting on the curb by the front door. What was he doing in Lacey? I made a quick U-turn in 6-lane traffic. In a van that big it is easy for people to get out of the way. I pulled into the parking lot thinking I would see if he needed a ride home.
When I got out of the van and walked up to him he startled and hurried to put something behind his back. He tried to act casual as though he always spent his free time at 7-11 in Lacey. I reached behind him and took the bag of Doritos and the Slim Jim out of his hands. “Really?” I said. He had taken the bus miles from the house to try to sneak his pleasure.
I left him to find his own way home.
He arrived home four hours later with six grocery bags of very gross frozen microwave meat product. Hot pockets and bagel bites and steak TV dinners. That boy had been caught and he was making no more excuses. The smell of totchos, chili mac and little smokies never came out of the carpets after that last week he was there.
He went away and fell in love and moved to Louisville Kentucky. The story of how I arrived on his doorstep with three of my friends a year later will be told another time. However it was that we arrived, we arrived. It was evening and Switch was stressed out. His girlfriend was not home and neither was the photographer they shared the house with.
He did not want to let my dog in for fear of messing up the photo studio that the living room had been converted into. I guilt tripped him. My dog was good and he knew that. They had shared a deep love in Eugene and then in Olympia. Had he forgotten? He let us in.
We drank and yelled and drank. Switch and I spent a long time hiding from everyone under the porch. I asked him if he was actually really in love. Because he was, we only got close a little bit. I went to bed in a sleeping bag on the floor of the guest room that was off of the kitchen.
In the morning I woke up naked, alone, on top of the covers of the guest bed. I sat up very disoriented. To my memory a couple had laid down in that bed the night before, and I had been wearing clothes last I checked.
Everyone was really mad at me, so mad that it took a long time to piece together what had happened. Apparently I had gotten up in the night and walked into the middle of the photo studio. I took down my pants and started to pee. When people yelled to try to get me to stop I just waved my hands in a “don’t worry about it, I got this” kind of way and kept right on peeing, a great box-of-wine-sized pee.
Then I walked back into the spare room, took off all my clothes and lay down in the bed. There I proceeded to push both sleeping parties onto the floor. Someone went and got Switch and, from what I gathered, he screamed at me to get up and clean it, even jabbing me with the mop, but I never so much as stirred.
My traveling companions and I didn’t stay at Switchs’ house anymore.
We always wrote letters to each other, even after that. He forgave me for not being housebroken (Louisville) like I had forgiven him for being a jack ass (Olympia).
In Cottage Grove, in the trailer, I had split ways with an aspiring coke dealer with a temper. I wrote to him then more than ever. I was so sad. I wrote him so many letters about how much nothing there was left of me. I was twenty years old and I had to drink beers every morning on the bus on my way to pull weeds for a crazy lady because I was so scared of the world. When I would get to town I would buy a 22 ounce gut killer called Jooze and put it in my inside vest pocket with a Slurpee straw sticking up out of it so that I could drink the berry malt liquor discreetly while I walked the rest of the way to work. I would get there by 9 am and convince my boss, who liked me for some reason, that everyday I was slurring and clumsy because I was ill. I would tell her I had come to work anyways because she meant so much to me. She believed me. The days would go on and on and on like that. I cried every night that I wrote him to tell him I was washed up, finished, kaput.
Without fail he wrote back, beautiful letters with painted birds all over the envelopes. He told me that he loved me so much and that I was worth every bit of it. He told me he would love me all the way through the hurt I was having and that I did not have to worry. It was months before all those words came anywhere near my heart. When they did I had some moments or even days in a row where I felt like he may be onto something.
I finally wrote him a letter that told him things were looking up. I could not believe he had stuck it through with me and I was so grateful. I did not hear back in too long. I hadn’t really noticed because my spirits were higher but so mas my alcohol intake.
Someone I hardly knew called to tell me he was dead.
Hung in the closet of a motel room after a fight with his girlfriend. She had heard the belt snap but thought it was him having some more of his blacked out tantrum. She found him when she woke up and realized he had not come to bed in the night like he usually did.
The next day my letter was in the mailbox, beat up from its trip across the country and back with a big red stamp on the front announcing that he would never open another letter from me again.
Everyone I knew tried to die when they drank like they wanted too, it was a wonder more of them didn’t succeed. On second thought Switch wasn’t the only one by a long shot and if he had been, it would have still been too many.